Thursday, 27 June (Teacher Training 1)

Here’s a lovely thing: I realized the teachers here teach by telling stories in class - of our bodies, of our imaginations. They are great storytellers. And what stimulates the imagination better than stories? 

Sol led us through our physical sequence this morning, reminding us of the breath and its suspensions between each inhale and exhale. That moment juuuuuuust before we breathe in/out again. What a delicious place. In-breath is, of course, inspiration and Impulse! This is what we focus on in mask work, too! The essentials run deep and in everything! 

Master image conjurer Craig led us to Lift after warm-up - we were Portuguese fishermen and women, lifting fishing nets from the water filled with fish after a season of drought. The exploration of the gesture continued in partner and text work.

So, the nature of this work is to share with people and partners. The work blooms when it comes in contact with other actors —> giving and receiving. My mates, then, were my other excellent teachers in this journey. And I have learned a lot from them. On the one end of the spectrum - learning to continue doing my work, listen and sustain the breath and the image when I can’t hear my partner because tension comes in the way (and not responding with tension), and on the other - learning to recognize and surrender to a state of complete openness unlike anything I’ve experienced before in a setting like this and being so aware and tethered to someone that the entire backside of my body vibrates/burns for an entire hour after the exercise. 

The afternoon came with clarification about archetypal and psychological gestures from Joanna Merlin herself. We were all grateful for a clarifying chat about it. There is some confusion around it, as they seem different but the same, simultaneously, or rather, can be the same. 

Some quotes:

Joanna: Psychological Gesture is not a result, but a springboard. It’s there to keep the life inside and conjure a whole experience. 

Joanna: what’s important is the How, not the What. Frequently that has to do with the quality you’re using, so same (archetypal) gesture but different quality. It’s really your secret, it feeds you. It is there for when you need it, when you feel disconnected. Sometimes, the characterization is how you hide your PG. 

Craig: The actor employs PG to awaken character

Joanna: It’s up to you to decide what you need and what serves you. To have the light, to inhabit the character

The quality of the breath is the quality of the gesture. Instead of just inhaling to do a gesture, it’s possible to deepen the breath, to cumulate it. 

This is the major part for me. To deepen, to cumulate the breath - to live there, not just go to visit. I don’t have a hard time arriving at the juicy place, it is the sustaining that is tricky. I’ve breathed a lot this week, all toward that goal. 

Dawn - it’s not add water and stir.
HAHA! And really, it feels confusing because we’re trying to pin it down to a specific process, a specific time frame and sequence of events, when in fact, it is simply a matter of exploration. The Archetype actions (push, pull, embrace, slash, wring, etc) are there to reference an essence of humanity, the rest is an exploration, a question-asking process, a dialogue between the inner world, the body, and the imagination. It requires being ok with living in the unknown for a while and trusting that conversation. As long as we listen, the thing will arrive. It is an exercise in faith, in belief in the impossible, in magic - how to be there and here at the same time, and a vote of confidence for the imagination. 

Apparently Michael Chekhov would interview his actors, ask them to talk about their characters and watch their gestures and how they’d talk about them, what minute gestures they would unconsciously use in conversation. Isn’t that outstanding? the body always knows and always tries to tell us. 

Later, Dawn led us through a beautiful journey into the imaginary body. First, we attached some images to different body parts which created a character. Two things here: how fast the body learns and then don’t have to hold on/think about the image constantly AND how close this is to my own process of making characters sometimes. 

Dawn’s prompts: metal rod in spine + orange jelly in the belly + Dragon’s feet + choose the hairstyle you see + choose the height you see + add a non-word sound = a whole new character prompted by these images and my own imagination and body, who walks following the sensation the images conjured without having to hold on to them, because the body picks it up and takes over. Amazingly, the body goes further, and produces other little follow-up gestures (I’ll call them), inspired by the inner life and physicality, like a signature gesture - e.g. nail biting. 

And the imaginary body journey into the character we chose from Three Sisters was like a bubble bath for the imagination. We witnessed our characters in our imaginations doing things and allowed ourselves to be informed by them. This was one of my most favorite explorations that Dawn led us through - great storytelling, and our imaginations cracked wide open.